Yep, it’s another Great Sports title, and this time Sega covers the world’s most favorite sport, soccer. Even though the “other football” doesn’t command the popularity of other sports in the U.S., soccer is still always represented on the different game systems and the Master System is no exception. Interestingly enough, just like Great Baseball, this cartridge is the second to use the name Great Soccer; the original was a vertically-scrolling blah of a card that never left Japan, and Sega apparently decided it wasn’t good enough for the Western market. So they produced this second soccer game (known as World Soccer in Japan) which bares more than a resemblance to Nintendo’s Soccer and exported that to the U.S. and Europe instead as Great Soccer. This game also supports the Sega Sports Pad, but thankfully you have the choice between the regular controller or the trakball.
The game is set up pretty much like most of the other Great Sports titles. One or two players can play, you can choose from eight international teams, and as usual there’s virtually no difference between the squads other than their color schemes, not even in skill or playing ability. Once your teams are picked you take to the pitch and try to dribble the ball across the horizontally-scrolling field, trying to shoot it into your opponent’s goal while hoping your goalie can keep the other team from scoring. Basically it’s most of the action you’d expect from a soccer title, including bicycle kicks, throw-ins, goal kicks and sliding kick steals, though penalties aren’t really called. The game gives you two three-minute halves to snag the most goals, but if the score is tied once the clock runs out then you settle the game with a first-person-view penalty shootout between you and the goalie.
Unfortunately those expecting a fun footy game like Jaleco’s Goal! or the FIFA titles will be sorely disappointed by the tedious and clunky gameplay. Your active player moves in chunks and instead of dribbling the ball he’s constantly kicking it some distance ahead of him, leaving it vulnerable to steals which happen quite frequently. The stiff and unresponsive controls make it difficult to accurately pass the ball to your teammates who seem to just wander aimlessly about until the ball comes their way, and shooting for the goal is also needlessly complicated. Plus the CPU opponent seems to have an unfair advantage as they’re apparently much faster than your players and even somehow make goals that shouldn’t go in the net. In addition no season or tournament mode is included to keep you playing; once the game concludes that’s it. You can also engage in the penalty shootout by itself but that mode gets old in no time as well.
The only real positive to this cart is the rather charming graphics. The colors are bright and the field looks nice, actually looking like grass, and there’s some decent animation for the characters, even though they all use the same sprite. The visuals during the shootout mode are also nicely done. Sadly the sounds consist of a high-pitched background tune that gets real annoying fast and can’t be turned off, as well as the standard so-so sound effects, including terrible noise supposed to represent the cheering crowd.
So once again a Great Sports title proves to be anything but what the title suggests. The boring, tedious and cheap gameplay will keep even the most ardent soccer fans away, and the lack of other playing modes also ensure this cart won’t get much playing time. Those craving some soccer action can find much better titles on the SMS (World Cup Italia ’90 and Tecmo World Cup are two fine examples) so Great Soccer should be kicked off the field.